Baturdays: Batman #5, [untitled]

In All, Books and Comics by Kyu

Publication date: Spring 1941
Author: Bob Kane

Hey everybody! It’s time again for another installment of Batman-to-child finger-wagging, aka:


 In fact, it’s even in the opening crawl:

Tsk, tsk, Batman. There’s more to life than money.

As our tale opens, Batman and Robin are perched on a rooftop, looking down on a bank robbery in progress–the latest in a series. They decide the only way to get down in time is to swing daringly from a post all the way down onto the robbers.

It’s bizarre that they chose to depict the drop from below. Doesn’t work at all, in my opinion.

Our heroes drop right onto the backs of the two thieves (who are robbing what a sign tells us is “BANK”. Must be the only game in town, I guess). Punching ensues.

No, Batman isn’t making a snide comment about the relationship between these two thieves. Get your mind out of the gutter.

“Oh no! A ghost! …oh, wait, that’s just my kerchief.”

A quick bullet from the other thief distracts Batman, and the two are able to drive off in their car. And although Batman and Robin follow in the Batmobile (whose giant face reminds me of the truck from “Maximum Overdrive”), the thieves quickly disappear.

At first, the duo had trouble accepting their new partner. But soon the top of Batman’s head proved himself to be an excellent detective, and a valuable addition to the team.

Accordingly, Bruce comes back to the thieve’s neighborhood the next day, to see if he could discover something about them. But first, he runs into (literally, with an ‘oof’) someone he knows: Linda Page! We last saw her here; she was a high-society girl Bruce made a date with after they met at a nightclub, and then a victim of manipulation by a gang of thieves who were rousted by Batman.

Bruce is curious as to why he hasn’t seen her around the society haunts, to which she responds:

Real smooth, Bruce.

Incidentally, this panel is a really nice example of something comics, particularly newspaper strips, seem to do quite often, which is the “silhouette panel”. It’s usually done in order to break up the rhythm of a visually-monotonous dialog exchange (which is why the funnies use it, they’re nothing but a bunch of talking heads). What’s fascinating here is that, unusually, only Bruce has been drawn this way, and that there are several ways to interpret this, all of them reflecting what Bruce is doing. He’s presenting an outline of himself, an image, an air of superficiality; he represents both the void at the center of the playboy’s life and the mystery that lies under the false Bruce.

Also Linda is wearing a very silly hat and we wouldn’t get the full effect if we couldn’t see her.

Anyway, somehow Page is able to overlook Bruce’s ridiculous aversion to work and altruism, and so he walks her home. On the way, they meet a Mrs. Grogan, who explains that her son Tommy is making her worry…

“The usual story! Seen it a thousand times during my crim… uh… I have to go. I have to return some video tapes.”

In fact, as they turn the corner, Bruce spots the pair, and recognizes them from the robbery.

That afternoon, as the brothers in crime are robbing yet another branch of BANK, the kid is wounded by the police. And wouldn’t you know it, there happens to be a nurse in the neighborhood…

Actually, she’s not being shallow. In the forties, federal regulations required nurses to be pretty at all times.

When Linda arrives and finds Tommy hurt, she agrees to help him, but not without a few recriminations thrown at his brother Mike for being a bad influence. Because–say it with me, folks–Crime Does Not Pay.

Meanwhile, back at the ‘mobile:

“Plus, we did save her from a murder rap before. That’s gotta be worth a little somethin’ somethin’, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Note that Batman doesn’t, you know, politely knock on the door. He goes up the fire escape and breaks in via the window. What a dick.

Anyway, he doesn’t find Linda, but he does get a clue to her whereabouts:

“Two gunmen have kidnapped me arrrrrg.”
“Maybe she got kidnapped when she was writing it.”
“Well she wouldn’t have written ‘arrrg,’ she just would have said it.”
“Maybe she was dictating.”

Theorizing that the two brothers have something to do with this–and remembering that Linda mentioned a nearby pool hall where they liked to hang out–Batman races down to the Batmobile, where he crafts a disguise.

The best way to tell a gangster from an impostor is to look at his clothes. Is he well-dressed? Or did he wake up this morning, look at a polka-dot tie and a plaid suit, and say, “This doesn’t clash in the slightest”?

The disguise gets him into the pool hall, where he asks for Mike Grogan. The boys agree to lead him there, but there’s a hitch:

Once again, Batman has forgotten that he is, in fact, a detective.

A whole lot of punching ensues, and even Robin gets in on the act, throwing pool balls at people and knocking them over the head with cue sticks. There are a few lackluster puns. Finally Batman decides the crooks have had enough, and our heroes withdraw.

Predictably, after the gangsters take a few aspirin, they decide to warn Mike about the detective on his trail. B&R follow him surreptitiously to the Grogans’ hideout on the waterfront. While Batman Solid Snakes his way in–

The guard’s last thought before he blacked out was, “I don’t mind being defeated. I don’t even mind being choked unconscious. But does he have to lick the back of my head? That’s just wrong.”

–Mike is getting the bad news. It’s decided that the group has to move. Unfortunately…

Tommy: “The situation is, I’m shot in the belly. And without medical attention, I’m gonna die.”
Generic thug: “I can’t take you to a hospital.”
Tommy: “You don’t have to take me in. Just drive me up to the front, drop me on the sidewalk. I’ll take care of myself. I won’t tell them anything. I swear to fucking god, I won’t tell ’em anything.”

Naturally, with the crooks disagreeing on whether to stay or go, the guns come out…

Huh. Looks like today’s moral should really be Loyalty Does Not Pay.

Next, the thug threatens to close off the rest of the loose ends, Timmy and Linda, but before he can do so:

Batman is pro-lynching. This is unsurprising.

A lot of uninteresting fighting occurs, including one humiliating step forward for women as Linda batters a crook (who was about to shoot Batman) into submission using one of her high heels. Meanwhile, nobody notices Tommy dragging himself up to the roof and firing his pistol…

Which brings the cops just in time to save Batman yet again (man, he’s really off his game tonight). B&R dash out, leaving the cops to wrap up the case. And it seems to go pretty well.

Except, you know, the part where Tommy’s brother dies. Everything else works out fine.

And thanks to Tommy’s help in getting the gang arrested, the judge pardons him for his crimes and releases him into his mother’s custody. Hooray! Another child saved by, uh, himself. Huh. I guess Batman didn’t really do anything for him at all, did he? Wasn’t even trying to teach a lesson. Too busy being distracted by Linda. But at least that paid off, right?

Telepathic dates are so romantic, don’t you think?

So apparently Linda is going to be Julie all over again–disparaging of Bruce, infatuated with Batman–notwithstanding those creepy zombie eyes. And I guess she has the weird hats, that’s new. Meanwhile, Bruce appears to have given up entirely on finding love when not ensconced in his leather bat costume. Hey, I say, if you’ve got a fetish, run with it.

Unless you’re into moralizing. That’s just gross.

Tune in next week as Baturdays continues!